BWIA should learn from this experience
Stabroek News
March 24, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Mr. Colin Gaul's confrontation with BWIA appears to have influenced the taking of two extreme sides by those who have bothered to comment. On the one side are those who, including some of Mr. Gaul's fellow passengers, perceive the BWIA stance as both one of over reaction, and in the process, disrespectful to Mr. Gaul in particular, as well as to the airline's clients in general.

On the other hand, are those who are appalled at the very idea that Mr. Gaul could even think about demanding rights, other than those generously granted by BWIA. Mr Richard Lewis, writing from Canada, in Stabroek News of 19th March, seems to think that Mr Gaul got off lightly. If it had been in the USA, the latter, according to that writer, "would (not could) have ended up in a detention facility". And this is a civilised world, mind you!

Mr Lewis does not take into account that, according to clearly unsolicited eye witness accounts, Mr. Gaul had finished off his angry protestations and "had settled into his assigned seat", when the assault on him was made. Then Mr Joel Drakes, who seems to think that sarcasm is the best way to treat the matter, suggests some ridiculous alternative conveyances back for Mr Gaul. It is clear that this Mr Drakes, an apparent self appointed wit, is one of those people who make sure of never siding with the under dog. "De boss seh suh, an' it gat to be suh", is what I interpret that philosophy to imply. For the likes of Mr Drakes, Dr. Martin Luther King had no right to ever think of going against the establishment in the early sixties. After all, the law had said that some people must travel at the back of buses, or not at all; that they could not do many things, like use the same entrances as some other people.

Mohandas Ghandi came up against the establishment to demand that they recognise certain principles that he held dear. Despite his philosophy of non violence, he was breaking the law, as also was Dr King. They both won their objectives, not because they worried about what the powers could and often did to them, but by having the courage to act up and, when necessary, speak up against discrimination and repression of God given rights.

Now let me concede that Mr. Gaul might have been somewhat more heated in his protests than might have been considered appropriate. Are Messrs Lewis and Drakes saying that BWIA has not expended some training on its staff, that could have resulted in pouring some oil on those troubled waters (especially since, according to accounts, that passenger had quietened down)? And are the members of the Barbados police not capable of subduing a man of Mr Gaul's size, without having to resort to the kind of battering, brutal assault that we have been reading and hearing about in this matter? Or did those involved see red, the minute they heard the mention of the "offender's" place of origin (as so many seem to think was behind it all)?

And yet, Editor, it is the likes of Mr. Gaul who, like Ghandi of India and King of Georgia, USA, stand between the bigots and the many who would rather suffer in silence, than raise as much as a whisper against those who oppress them, discriminate against them, and appear to feel that a heavy hand was bequeathed to them by Providence. Travel in a mini bus, in Georgetown, and insist that the driver turns down the noise, and hear those like Mr Drakes, ask you: "If you don't like de noise why you don't buy you own bus?" For them it is, "Side with those who are apparently in power, and all will be well with you".

And really, Mr Drakes ought to read those unsolicited accounts by Mr Gaul's fellow passengers who were repulsed by the maltreatment meted out to him. One admitted to having used that very forward stairway with no objection from the staff. And there were other reports like that. So why all the fuss? Was BWIA embarrassed by their own behaviour?

I hope that they turn a new leaf, however, after all this. It will mean that Mr Gaul's gall was not all in vain.

Yours faithfully,

Walter A Jordan